I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that when people don’t know who to call, they call 911. We respond to much more than just fire and EMS calls. Water leaks in houses, vehicle lockouts, elevator rescues, animal rescues, blood-pressure checks and community health fairs are just a few examples of other things we do, usually without question.
I had someone ask me recently what don’t we do, and my reply was that we pretty much do it all.
If, by chance, we don’t know how to solve a problem, we’ll find someone who can. We’re also prepared to improvise, adapt and overcome, and I haven’t seen a challenge yet that we weren’t willing to tackle.
In this day and age, fire and EMS agencies have become true “all hazards emergency services,” and this is certainly true for EMS.
Gone are the days of responding to just 911 calls; fire-based EMS agencies are now doing non-emergent interfacility transports, supporting or operating health clinics in the community, performing car seat checks, giving away bicycle helmets, teaching CPR classes, sponsoring drowning-prevention programs, performing home-safety inspections, providing senior-specific services and holding immunization clinics.
Others have started community integrated-health programs. While community paramedics and mobile integrated healthcare are the hot topics today, the extreme variations between localities probably makes “community integrated healthcare” a better term.
These programs generally target the medically underserved, but also aim to reduce costs of service as well as lower repeat responses in some communities, thus improving availability of resources.
While some departments utilize community paramedics, others use paramedics paired with nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Some use only EMTs while others include local law enforcement, social services and mental-health workers as part of their deployment scheme. Some are dispatched along with the first-due units, some are sent in lieu of first-due units and others are actually scheduling appointments and follow-ups.
Most programs tend to be mobile, but some are now appearing with fixed facilities in fire and EMS stations.
Extending beyond healthcare, EMS now plays a vital role in emergency management, law enforcement and homeland security as well. Look at the amount of time, effort and funding that has been put into training EMS personnel to respond to terrorist incidents, active shooter events and natural disasters. EMS personnel regularly fill roles in both the incident-command system and the emergency-operations center.
We have definitely moved beyond our traditional role, we’re functioning at a very high level in a number of areas in the all-hazard spectrum and for the moment, the sky is the limit on where we are going into the future.
When it comes to fire and EMS, what don’t we do? I can’t think of anything, can you?